Futility on Offense Dooms Hoosiers in Dome

No offense, but Indiana football has now dug itself a pretty big hole. Thanks in large part to an IU offense that converted only one third down all afternoon and turned the ball over three times, the Hoosiers fell to Minnesota 16-7 Saturday afternoon at the Metrodome...

No offense, but Indiana football has now dug itself a pretty big hole.

Thanks in large part to an IU offense that converted only one third down all afternoon and turned the ball over three times, the Hoosiers fell to Minnesota 16-7 Saturday afternoon at the Metrodome.

With the win, Minnesota secured its first Big Ten victory since 2006 and improved to 5-1. Indiana , meanwhile, lost its third straight to fall to 2-3, and suddenly its hopes of making a second straight bowl trip appear to be getting remote.

The offense's ineptitude began from virtually the opening kickoff. Both of IU's first quarter possessions resulted in three-and-outs, and its only third-down conversion came 2 ½ minutes into the fourth quarter. The Hoosiers managed only 49 yards rushing and 293 yards of total offense, with nearly half of those yards came on the one scoring player (a 77-yard, second-quarter touchdown pass from Ben Chappell to Marcus Thigpen) and a last-second 48-yard pass from Kellen Lewis to Demarlo Belcher after the game had been decided.

"The offense never got into a rhythm and was never able to stay on the field," IU Coach Bill Lynch said.

As a result of the offense's inability to do much of anything, IU squandered a very good effort from Jammie Kirlew and the IU defense. Despite being on the field for nearly 38 minutes, the Hoosiers surrendered only one touchdown and sacked Gopher quarterback Adam Weber four times, 2 ½ of which came from Kirlew. The defense also forced a couple of turnovers on fumbles inside IU territory that halted a couple of other Gopher drives.

While Minnesota wide receiver Eric Decker had a huge day with 13 catches for 190 yards and quarterback Adam Weber completed 23-of-37 throws for 274 yards, IU got everything it could have hoped from the defense. Minnesota was limited to just 59 yards rushing on 44 carries, a point of emphasis for IU entering the game.

"The defense made big stops and got the ball back for the offense," Lynch said.

After a scoreless first quarter, Minnesota got on the board first early in the second quarter. Weber eluded a couple of pass rushers and hooked up with Nathan Tow-Arnett for a 40-yard pass play that moved the ball inside IU's five, and Shady Salamon scored on a one-yard run two plays later to put Minnesota up 7-0.

Indiana answered late in the quarter, thanks to another big play from Marcus Thigpen. The Hoosier tailback got loose in the secondary, and Chappell found him wide open for a 77-yard touchdown pass play to tie the game at 7-7.

The third quarter was defined by missed opportunities for Indiana. Kellen Lewis marched the team down the field on the half's opening drive, but Gopher lineman Steve Davis forced a Lewis fumble at the Minnesota 16 and the Gophers recovered to end that scoring threat. Minnesota then went on a 7-play, 64-yard drive that ended with a 29-yard Joel Monroe field goal that put Minnesota on top 10-7.

It was the first of Lewis' two fumbles in the quarter that resulted in Minnesota field goals. The second came two possessions later, when a 12-yard Lewis scramble ended with another fumble that Minnesota recovered at the IU 46. Weber then hooked up with Decker on a couple of first down pass plays to get the Gophers in scoring position, and Monroe capped the drive with 42-yard field goal to extend the lead to 13-7.

After IU went three-and-out on its ensuing possession, Lynch's team missed a golden chance to take the lead courtesy of its defense. On the first play of the next series, Weber misfired on a throw to Salamon out of the backfield, and Salamon deflected the ball to IU cornerback Richard Council. But with a wide open field in front of him, Council was unable to come down with the ball that could have gone all the way.

From there, a pair of IU fourth-quarter drives stalled, and Minnesota eventually put the game away with a 15-play, 50-yard drive that chewed 7:21 off the clock. The final play was a 38-yard field goal by Monroe with 22 seconds left, ending IU's hopes of securing its first win at Minnesota since 1993.

It was an extremely disappointing result for an IU team that had expected to get off to a fast start to the 2008 campaign and had visions of a second straight bowl trip. But at 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the Big Ten, the Hoosiers have a lot of work to do if that's going to happen.

"We'll get back and look at everything," Lynch said. "We have to get better. The defense played well, but the offense just had one of those days."

RUSHING
Indiana – Lewis 9-18, Thigpen 5-14, McCray 4-14, Fisher 1-5, Payton 3-3, Chappell 2-(-5). Totals 24-49. Minnesota – Eskridge 29-74, Salamon 4-10, Thomas 1-6, Stoudermire 1-3, Decker 1-2, Weber 8-(-36). Totals 44-59.

PASSING
Indiana – Lewis 21-15-0 167, Chappell 3-1-1 77. Minnesota – Weber 37-22-0 274.

RECEIVING
Indiana – Fisher 5-46, Thigpen 3-88, Belcher 2-58, Means 2-19, Turner 2-18, Evans 1-18, Faulkner 1-(-3). Minnesota – Decker 13-190, Stoudermire 2-13, Eskridge 2-7, Thomas 2-4, Tow-Arnett 1-40, Kuznia 1-13, Simmons 1-7.

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